The Red Hook Ramblers (a trad band in which I play tuba) is the soundtrack to this great film short that appeared in the Huffington Post today.
The Red Hook Ramblers (a trad band in which I play tuba) is the soundtrack to this great film short that appeared in the Huffington Post today.
This week is packed with some interesting brass music... tonight I got to play an exceptionally eclectic program with the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble. It was nice to play with them again. I got to do some antiphonal Gabrieli as well as John Cage's Atlas Elipticalis.
Brass players all know to revere every second they get to play Gabrieli's antiphonal brass music (especially in a great space for it!) and Atlas Elipticalis is a work I've known about for some time, but had not, until now, had the chance to perform.
Also, the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea is a great place to perform! It's big but-only-enough echoic space was perfect for both of these works.
Also through the week is some typical holiday brass quintetting. Always a decent time!
And then...tomorrow night I get my ass kicked! I get the pleasure of playing a NY premiere of a work for brass quintet, jazz tenor sax, and drumset, composed by NYC-Toronto sax player Quinsin Nachoff; his 'Pyramid Brass Project.' What a brass quintet to be a part of!! (I'll be shedding this one up until the last second before the gig!) I get to share the stage with brassers Ralph Alessi, Shane Endsley, John Clark, Ryan Keberle, drummer Dan Weiss, and tenorist/composer Qunisin. It's going to be brutal!
The fall is always a marathon, and I now finally have a couple of days to catch my breath. This fall has been a time of constant motion... Have tuba will travel!
Starting in September, New York's notorious Ja Ja Jas kicked off our Oktoberfest tear with shows in New York at our home base of Zum Schneider. It was madness as always; a line down the street to get in (and we heard that someone actually slept in their car to get a good space in line!)
Right after rehearsing in NYC, the Ja Ja Jas immediately hit the road for the south, first down to North Carolina, then up through Virginia, back to NYC for a few shows, then back down to Virginia again.
(here I am with Herbie Abernathy of Valient Thorr -- was at our show!)
Big festival crowds and new friends and great food and... beer. Those shows are a lot of work, but are worth it for the vibe and the crowd!
I took a break from the Ja Ja Jas' constant string of Blaßmusik rocking, to head overseas again with the mighty Gato Loco for our third European trip in just over a year. We brought our "Psycho-Mambo" brand of jazz-rock to headline the Salzburg "Jazz and The City" festival in gorgeous Salzburg, Austria. (original home of W.A. Mozart, who I share a birthday with)
Gato Loco all converged in Munich, from what seemed to be a million different flights. We finally all made it in and got a great afternoon of rehearsal in a gorgeous art loft transformed out of an old post office in Munich's West End.
Here I'll mention that this was the maiden air flight for the famed Accord tuba case. This is the hi-tech carbon flight case which weights only slightly more than a soft gigbag. It worked great - I had to take 2 different airlines to get to Munich and they obviously put the case to the test (scratched the crap out of the outside of it, and beat the bumpers) but the ultralight case held it's own - no tuba damage! It came right out of baggage claim, right up the conveyor with the normal-sized suitcases, and I was able put the horn right on my back and walk right out of the airport and hop on a train. Tuba players will understand what a HUGE deal this is!
We visited this retro place called a CD store and look what we found displayed prominently!
and of course, we hit some bier halls!
The next morning, we got up early and hurriedly headed up the Alps toward Salzburg.
Once in this very pretty town, we got to the hotel and the band quickly befriended the dirndl-laden hotel staff and everyone got a quick nap to chill in our nice digs before soundcheck.
The venue was great - a large ballroom type of venue. The band and house staff got quickly to work putting together our sizable setup of two separate drum setups, two separate bass setups, guitar plus seven different horns.
During our soundcheck, a representative came to our venue in Salzburg from the Accord Case company in Croatia to modify my case for me! (Rockstar treatment! yeah!!) He set me up well!
Between soundcheck we had the pleasure of heading up the mountain to one of the most notorious restaurants in Salzburg which overlooks the entire town. Amazing! There we dined on Deer and got a chance to catch up with our festival-mates Bobby Previte and Steve Swallow, who had just finished their set. We didn't linger long tho... Gato Loco was on the clock and had a job to do!
We started our usual off-stage entrance and quickly surprised the crowd.
The band threw down for the entire extended-length set. The kind Austrian crowd ate it up, got out of their seats and danced the night away. It was a great show.
After the show, per Gato Loco tradition, we joined some of the locals for some reveling on the town.
Upon my return to the Big Apple, there was no time to rest! First, immediately, the De Bajo portion of Gato Loco played at our favorite home base of Barbes in Brooklyn, and New Beard was in rehearsal. I then headed with the Red Hook Ramblers for a quick jaunt to Boston, then rushing back for a show at Lincoln Center in NYC. Right from LC I ran to a CMJ spot with New Beard at Union Hall in Brooklyn. The next morning it was back to the studio with NB and then break and run to play an orchestral gig at Carnegie Hall, all of this within about 3 days time. Whew!
Fortunately this week I have a few days to recover and then in a week it's back to the studio with New Beard, Halloween with Gato Loco de Bajo, then back to Germany for a few more shows with the full Gato Loco.
Lots of things to come... some great media from both New Beard and Gato Loco to be released soon and more shows shows shows with all sorts of bands. Tuba Life is never boring in NYC!
It's always an exciting day when a new CD that I'm on comes out! I absolutely adore the art of recording.
Recently, I got the pleasure to jam alongside my pal, trumpet monster Al Chez on the leading track of the rock-jazz trumpeter Kiku Collins' new record "Red Light." Kiku, boneman David Gibson, Chez and myself all get to bring it home on the jam-session styled tune called "Blue Patrol".
ps - all you trumpeters can pick up a copy in person, as she'll be at ITG this week
One of the recently released CD's I am on is is a recording of new works for brass ensemble. The "Tilt" Creative Brass Band is actually a standard-sized full brass ensemble made up of more than just great players, every member is a creative artist all in their own. I was honored to be a part of this group and to play this amalgomation of works by NYC "Downtown" composers. It was an inspirational group of folks to play amongst!
The group is led by trombonist Chris McIntyre and the CD was prodced by the legendary Anthony Coleman. We recorded it at Oktaven Studios in Yonkers, NY.
Here's some tuba-centric excerpts:
In New York, anything can work as a venue.
As part of an art show, a trio of Gato Loco de Bajo improvised and played at St. Cecilia's abandoned convent in Brooklyn. Beautiful sounding room. and ghosts.
Photos by the amazing Jan Meissner.
A review surfaced from our Gato Loco show in Paris in March. Enjoy if you parle Français.
I was sad to leave France after being there less than 24 hours. I slept most of the way back through Belgium into Rotterdam. We got into town and found the venue. We were greeted by our contact Marianne, who right off the bat said: “Would you like to come in for a drink before you unload?” I knew I’d like this place!
A couple of us came in to check out the venue and saw a small room with a tiny stage in the corner. I immediately had that familiar sinking feeling that this was a punier venue than we thought... this is a NORMAL and common feeling in NYC, where many of the venues are the size of a small living room (and smell like a gas station restroom)
We followed Marianne to the back, expecting to find a greenroom or the likes. To our surprise and relief, the curtain on the back wall was concealing a large and glorious venue!!! It turned out to be much better than we had hoped for! This place, Grounds, had glassed in the entire courtyard behind the building and turned it into a gorgeous theater. The balconies of the surrounding buildings which had once overlooked the courtyard now made galleries for the theater... genius! The sound was top-notch as well. Their selection of gear was great as was the sound crew.
We unloaded the van and bid farewell to our kind driver Jonas. The hotel was right across the street and we assembled for soundcheck. We felt like this was going to be a great show, and it was. We started our usual march-in entrance from way up in the galleries and marched all the way down onto the stage, and that was only the beginning. The dancing crowd was awesome and made us feel so welcome.
We rocked the show, but the best was yet to come...
As we hung in the front bar for a bit after the show, the venue called last call. Well, we weren’t done. One of our new Dutch friends read our minds, and suggested what ended up being just perfect. We left Grounds and walked about a mile to a tiny dive bar where they buzzed us in and locked the door behind us. Our caravan of folks piled in... and what sweet music greeted our ears? A Meters B side on vinyl!! YES!! We were home. An amazing DJ and such a great crowd of locals made that night really fantastic. I left the bar at about 6:30am and it was still jumping. I had a gorgeous walk back to the hotel as the sun was coming up and the birds were singing. What a great end to a great night!
On to part VI....
After a much needed snooze, I awoke as we were coming into the famous Paris traffic.
We’d allowed plenty of time, so all was cool. When we got to the venue we were met by our friend Marie of the Banlieues Bleues festival with the exciting news that every band craves to hear: the show was SOLD OUT.
This was a wonderful surprise, as the festival had entrusted in us to open their whole festival, which of course we were thrilled to do.
It felt GREAT to be back in France.
A peculiar circular staircase down accessed the stage door at the venue. Fortunately there was a loading dock with a rickety lift for the gear, and they had a crew to move our stuff for us. (always appreciated as a tuba player!) The band waited on the sidewalk, taking a moment to soak up the Paris sun and to feel like rockstars.
Inside the venue was smoky! A large concert hall filled with smoke? This was France and all, but this was smoky even for them... we realized they were testing the theatrical smoke / fog machines along with a huge light setup -- as they were making a 5 HD camera video of the night, to be broadcast throughout Europe!
We setup and did our soundcheck thing, and all was copasetic. However, let's get our priorities straight -- the most important thing I was looking forward to in France (beyond the sold out show, of course) was the FOOD. Naturally, we were not disappointed. After soundcheck, we ran into our sweet friend from Bordeaux, "Audrey II” Theran who was not there to drive us in her father’s car (inside joke from back in Bordeaux), rather she was there to direct and lead us to dinner!! We were escorted a few blocks down the street to a delightful corner bistro that rocked us with some great grub. And of course, the incomparable Rich Stein provided the appropriate dinnertime entertainment.
I could have sat there all evening. But, we had a show to do, and a festival to kick off! We headed back to the venue and saddled up. We hit it and really hit it hard. The crowd loved it. It felt good to shake off the day of road travel as well as shake off the previous night’s show. The stage felt great and we hit a strong stride.
We were greeted by some more friends after the show. Once the general crowd left, there was a vip reception where we met some presenters of other festivals and interesting folks of all sorts. We desperately wanted to go out out on the town and catch up with our friends, but it was already like 2am and we still had to load out, and our hotel was way on the other side of Paris.
Fortunately, load out was easy. We got back to the hotel -- the same hotel we stayed at when we passed through Paris last summer. This was the place where we watched the finals of the World Cup and listened to neighborhoods howl in celebration or defeat, and watched cheeseballs fly out the window.
In the hotel elevator, I ran into another trombone player from NYC who happened to be in Paris to play with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. They played the same festival the night after Gato Loco. What was funny is that he and I were just on tour with another band not two days before I came to Europe with Gato Loco. The music world is a small world indeed.
It was then off too bed, the van was leaving for Rotterdam early the next morning.
On to Part V....
So in the van, everyone tightly packed but comfortably snug within the Euro-comfort of their seats, we headed off for Paris through Belgium.
The countryside through Holland and Belgium is FLAT, but nice. I was excited to go through a country I’d not been before, so I didn’t sleep for a while. Holland looked like a giant putt-putt course. Funny. Seriously, I dug all the windmills.
And with regards to windmills, I am always left wondering why don’t we have more in the US? I’m not talking about the old-fashioned drainage ones, but what about the modern power-generating ones that are also all over the place... It’s seems pretty obvious to me...., Power by nothing burned.
I did get some sleep. I’m actually quite good at sleeping while comfortably upright; a valuable skill I learned years ago living on a crowded tour bus for months at a time.
I awoke to stopping in Belgium at one of my fav spots I miss in the USA. AUTOGRILL! (yes folks, it’s even better than Wawa!) Autogrill is a European highway rest stop that ROCKS. Instead of all fast food, it’s actually a grocery store! There's even a lovesick Italian movie called Pane e Tulipani that kicks off in an Autogrill. My wife and I got to really love them driving all over Italy a few years ago.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about a Gato Loco excursion without at least a mention of the great Rich Stein.
Rich is unequivocally, the funnest van guy ever. He kept us amazingly entertained, as always. His personality is as infectious as his kick-ass drumming. His riveting and long recounting on an award-winning essay he wrote on a theoretical background of Tolkien’s characters was awesome. I’m not kidding. That and his road stories, like traveling by private jet with Lauryn Hill, were worth the price of admission.
March 10-11, Amsterdam
The next day we awoke at a decent hour, the jet lag and the previous-night's festivities were semi-slept off. We had rehearsal at the hall. Our vehicles picked us up promptly.
The building the Bimhuis space resides in is incredible! The Musiekgebouw aan 't Ij is a gorgeous specimen of Van der Rohe-ish modernity. The Bimhuis space is a hi-tech listening room located in a cantilevered box that juts out over the river. The entire complex is breathtaking... and what's more incredible is that this amazing structure is completely dedicated to modern music!
Inside this impressive place is a rehearsal room and all the gear we could ever want.
We immediately hit the space and started to work off our travel and refresh our minds. The whole band was into it and ready to work.
After rehearsal we hit the stage for soundcheck... and this audiophiles' room took some getting used to... both on our end as well as on the house crew's end. The thing is with Gato Loco is, while we may at first look like a modern jazz outfit, Gato Loco is really a rock band in disguise. And yes, we are LOUD.
We powered through the soundcheck, doing what we could to get used to the sound of the room, as well as our newer, slightly reduced octet compliment.
Then we checked in to the hotel. THE HOTEL. Wow. It was in the same complex, and absolutely stunning. It was the best hotel room I've ever stayed in. Not the largest room, but it was unequivocally the best. Not only were the beds great, my view over the river Ij was unbelievable. This hotel had to have the best views in all of Amsterdam.
I had a few minutes, so broke out the phone, hooked up the WiFi and used this rare tour time-off to do some Face-Time to catch up with the family back home. (Face-Time is AWESOME)
We then headed back to the venue and had a wonderful dinner, and the show started. A nice violin-led fusion-y band started out the night, followed with a great pianist that worked with prepared piano. Then we got our chance to hit, and we did our best to hit it really hard. Sonically it was tough, but we fought through it like brutes. I have no idea how it came off. We were exhausted and missing that post-show adrenaline that we often have. (more on the results of the show later*) We still decided we needed to celebrate this show; being the first show of our second European tour. The whole band hung out on the ferry dock of the Musiekgebouw aan 't Ij and really enjoyed each other's company. That's an amazing thing about this band is that we all get along so well and genuinely enjoy being around each other.
*note - reviews of the show were AWESOME. In Dutch, but awesome nonetheless.
The next morning, after too little sleep in this majestic hotel, we congregated in the hotel's restaurant for the king-of-all-hotel-continental-breakfasts! HOLY CRAP it was amazing! That breakfast is still a topic of conversation.
We then met in the lobby and waited for our new drivers. We hired a company called “Just Like Your Mom” which is a band touring company out of Belgium. They had driven my sister and the band she's in, Nashville Pussy, and their crew, for almost an entire month just prior to us getting there. Our driver Jonas was also NP's driver. He was prompt and professional, and the van was exactly as promised… and everything fit in the back, including the tuba crate, so all was good. The van was packed tight, but everyone seemed comfortable enough.
Next, on the road. Continued in Part III....
March 8/9, NYC to Amsterdam
This was Gato Loco's second trip to Europe - and after the first one, this second one had a lot to live up to!
Our previous trip to Bordeaux last summer was amazing... it was one of those dream touring / travel situations where the group and the environment worked together so harmoniously.
I knew going into this second trip that it would be easy to fall into a pitfall of missed expectations...
Fortunately, we are 2/2. The second trip just a few weeks ago was just as incredible.
Due to logistic reasons, for this trip we decided to take only 8 of us instead of the full 11 that we took before. This was truly a difficult choice for us. The band powered ahead, much because of Stefan's unwavering positive outlook.
On to the tour...
Due to cartage of my tuba, I, and trombonist Ric Becker to keep me company, flew British Airways via Heathrow, while the other 6 flew Delta straight through to Amsterdam.
After the usual prerequisite pre-flight battle at the airlines check-in counter regarding my tuba, the flights were just fine. Pretty much as a rule, airline counter agents do NOT know the current baggage policies of the companies they work for, they tend also to be supplied with outdated information. (just an FYI!)
I had entered this trip practically stepping right off the plane from another trip - a one-nighter from NYC to Tucson and back again for a show with Theolonius Monk Jr. I was starting this trip into my third consecutive day of airtravel. I was exhausted, so it was great to have entire rows of seats to ourselves!
On British Airways, the food is always decent, and I did get to catch up on some sleep. I also watched the Big Lebowski to bide the time. The Dude abides. (The Dude is a personal hero of mine)
Becker stretched out across the seats and made a bed for himself with a conglomeration of blankets and pillows and even disrobed for his nighty-night time. Now there is an experienced tour-er!
After a long-ish layover in London, we got to Amsterdam and the tuba made it too, unscathed. Our driver was waiting for us, card "Gato Loco" in hand (Rockstar!) only to find that the tuba crate would not fit into the fancy Mercedes sedan they'd brought. Fortunately, a station wagon (also a Mercedes) was only a short phone call away. Once in that car Ric wanted to hear some tunes, so the driver took that opportunity to show off his surround sound with the audio from the helicopter scene from Apocolypse now. That was just what I wanted to hear after what seemed like a month on an airplane…..
Holland seems to be a very friendly place, and it seems that the average masses there have a quite high standard of living. It must be all the tulips that make them so cheery. Oh, legal hookers and weed probably don't hurt either.
Our little hotel was fine - was an old mansion adjacent to the Vondelpark... Amsterdam's Central Park. Pretty cool.
There at the hotel, we met up with the rest of the band who had arrived earlier in the day. The rooms were small but clean.
That evening, many of the band went around the corner to go hear the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, but after this, my fourth day of air travel in a row, I couldn't deal with anything that required cognitive thought. …much less Brahms. I went perusing the town with the Gato Loco rhythm section.
To be continued....